WILDLIFE

Great Salt Lake trust offers millions for wetland protection

Jul 24, 2023, 1:10 PM

The Great Salt Lake is an important migratory area for birds across North America....

Birds use the Farmington Bay Area as one of several migratory areas for birds at the Great Salt Lake on Feb. 2, 2022. (Carter Williams/KSL)

(Carter Williams/KSL)

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education, and media organizations to help inform people about the history and the plight of the Great Salt Lake.

FARMINGTON, Utah — A trust created by the Utah State Legislature to help save the Great Salt Lake is now funding efforts to protect critical wetland habitats.

The Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust announced it would fund projects that would protect or restore wetlands around the lake in an effort to help its hydrology. Nonprofit groups, cities or counties could get up to $10 million to help in wetland protection.

“Important habitat for millions of migratory birds and other wildlife and also continue to create that important interface with our communities,” said Marcelle Shoop, who is the trust’s director and also works for the Audubon Society.

Applications are being taken until Sept. 15 and people can apply directly with the trust.

“We are looking for projects that are very high quality that actually will result in improved habitat, improved wetland functionality,” Shoop said.

The Great Salt Lake has benefited from a great winter — rising 5 1/2 feet from its historic low last year. The lake is now declining again as a result of hot temperatures and increased water diversions. A shrinking lake has alarmed state leaders who worry about reduced snowpack and water supply, toxic dust storms, harms to wildlife and public health and billions in negative impact to Utah’s economy.

To help refill the lake, the legislature created the trust and tapped the Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy with the goal of securing water for the lake itself. Shoop told FOX 13 News that negotiations are under way with people on water rights. The trust is also taking donations (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently donated water shares to the lake).

“We’re still optimistic and again, this year having been a much better water year, has made things available that haven’t been,” Shoop said. “But there are lots more opportunities that we want to continue to talk to people.”

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Great Salt Lake trust offers millions for wetland protection